DIRECTION: Bryan Singer
DURATION: 2 hours 25 minutes
The last ‘X Men’ outing ‘Days of the Future Past’ had an acclaimed run at the worldwide box office with a whopping return of close to $748 million (the highest grosser of the series so far) and returning director Bryan Singer, who helmed the franchise-opener 16 years ago and one other in between, pulls out his fourth series salvo with equal flourish but this time though he seems to have bitten into much more than even he can chew.
He returns to the franchise with a mutant called Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) – the first and most powerful mutant from Marvel’s ‘X-Men’ universe, who became immortal and invincible by amassing the powers of many other mutants. Apocalypse has been dormant for thousands of years and is being resurrected by an underground secret cult/society in Egypt.
The opening sequence, set in 3600 BC in the Nile Valley, has a giant pyramid crashing down and therein lies the secret behind Apocalypse’s dormancy that held fast for thousands of years. Cut to the present where the narrative careens around back and forth several times over, from Poland to Britain to Cairo and the CIA headquarters – from efforts to resurrect Apocalypse to mutant training to capture and caging of some unlucky mutants for scientific study to rogue justifications to rookie mutant challenges, the narrative jumps all over the place trying to amass a large assemblage of sub-plots in order to justify the climactic vanquishing of the super-powerful villain.
This one is bigger, more populated and super busy too, but the clarity of thought and vision displayed in the previous outing is missing. But not by much. A grieving, disheartened Magneto (Michael Fassbender) must let go off his rogue pretensions in order to team up with Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Professor X (James McAvoy), aided by Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and a team of young X-Men Quicksilver (Evan Peters), younger versions of Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Night Crawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) alongside CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) to stop their greatest nemesis and save mankind from complete destruction.
The exposition and set-up gets unwieldy and a startling cameo from Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) springing out of a cage for no reason other than tokenism, makes the going seem thoroughly confused. Add to that Apocalyse’s undeniable powers teamed up with four new followers: African orphan Ororo (Alexandra Shipp), fierce Psylocke (Olivia Munn), winged outcast Angel (Ben Hardy) and a rogue Magneto may bolster the appeal but that grandiose ambitiousness only disturbs the coherence of the play that sends the entire worlds’ nuclear arsenal zooming into outer space, and shows up the X-Men team looking much weaker on the defense. The middle portion is therefore pretty much muddled.
With so many specially gifted characters doing their bit to save the world it becomes difficult to keep track of all their super-tricks. The narrative feels a little jumbled in the evolution, but despite all that disharmony, manages to straighten out in the lead up to the cataclysmic finale – which is a humdinger for sure.
Grant Major’s production design, Louise Mingenbach’s distinctive costumes, cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel’s fluid combo work with visual effects designer John Dykstra and editor-composer John Ottman’s multitalented effusiveness allows for a smoothly integrated take-off and subsequent voracious display of action that sieges into a mind-boggling array of firepower that is imposing if not overpowering.
So if you are willing to sit through all those discordant dynamics, the payoff becomes justified.